I interview Aiden McGee about his touch of brilliance at The Truscott Arms and review the excellent pub menu.
Aiden McGee grew up in the small seaside town of Donegal. This quintessential Irish area is famed for its simple yet elegant food, and with fresh oysters invariably being the dish of the day, it's no wonder Aiden puts so much thought into keeping his menu beautifully formed and on-point. In fact, he cites his influences as the kitchen table and his grandparents - definitely the humble beginnings I'd have imagined looking at the honest ingredients on the menu.
Aiden tells me about his roots:
Donegal itself has vast amounts of great products which I hope in the near future I can set up a network to get them to the kitchen"
And yet there's elegance and finesse to the dishes that show that Aiden has kept himself busy and learning at every step. His many years in the hotel trade taught him to work with different dining experiences, making sure the quality remains high day in and day out.
As a Maida Vale hot-spot The Truscott Arms in is somewhat of a master of all trades; a well stocked bar and wine list, fine dining restaurant, well appointed terrace and classy pub scene it covers every type of dining event. When we were invited along to sample the menu, we saw people on dates, friends chatting, business catch ups and much of the 'wine after work' crowd. In fact it's this wide selection of people which Aiden wanted to bring his passion for food.
Aiden helps his team grow:
My best kitchen moment would have to be watching people grow and when they listen you can pass on your experience" "When I am old and grey to look back and see the people that have tried succeed, to cook better food than the day before."
The next big thing apparently is chefs taking on their own pubs and I'd agree. In fact I put the success of The Truscott Arms to the excellent partnership between Aiden and the inimitable owner Andrew Fishwick; it seems they have well defined roles and work really well together, something owing I imagine to them both having their heads screwed on the right way, and a positive happy outlook... it always helps. It's a hard life though only making it back to see his parents once a year - this man has epic dedication to the cause!
So now to the food, we were excited with much anticipation and arrived to the perfect glass of chilled bubbles. Big tick right there.
The meat board sharing platter is a great collection of ideas, and they all work together well.
Pressed pork terrine - not over-salted, lovely light herby jelly. The potted duck was just the thing to spread on the thin toasted sourdough, and with smoked pork, cured beef and celeriac slaw, there was certainly enough between two people.
Aiden even has pigs head, scratchings and pigs ear on the menu, he says:
the pig board is something I have cooked before and thinking what I would like to eat at a bar" "people are more open to these things now"
These are beef chips, they are the BOMB. Seriously, with the home-made brown sauce they are light, crispy, rich, deep and every other scrumptious word imaginable. Could eat them for ever.
Scotch eggs are a particular favourite of mine, so when I saw they were on the menu my heart skipped a beat. What's more these are black pudding ones served with a black garlic mayo. Bloomin marvellous.
So onto the mains - Waygu beef is taking over the world and for good reason, its careful rearing and quality assurance remains true to Aiden's roots. Made me very happy with the medium-rare patty being juicy and flavourful.
My favourite kitchen thing is my Japanese knife"
What I found unexpectedly good about the burger, is that it bucked the trend for sky-scraper-esque burgers. While still impressively packed, I could still eat it without having to de-construct it first - thank you!
No pub would be complete in England without the classic fish and chips. So what happens when you get an awesome chef to make it? The crispest batter I've ever had, and I've had a few! Triple cooked chips were just the ticket, and the pea puree was light and balanced it all well. Good to see home-made tartar sauce too.
With so much going on in the mains, it was nice to see the side salad wasn't just a throw-away, it had the same care and attention, light dressing and interesting leaves - there's no boring iceberg here!
After more food than we could have ever hoped for, we eyed the desert menu with care, but there was no need to worry, these English Strawberries, lemon cream and mint granita was just the ticket.
For the chocoholics out there, look no further. Chocolate mousse, honeycomb and yogurt icecream. Total choc-gasm.
The Truscott Arms is an independently owned pub in the heart of Maida Vale.
55 Shirland Rd
Aiden McGee is the guy on the right, that guy on the left is a very happy guy who has a food blog and has just finished writing this article. You can thank his brother for the epic shirt.